COVID-19 is the biggest hot topic so far of 2020. The pandemic has led to national lockdowns all over the world, in turn invoking almost industry-wide shutdowns. As of the 19th August, almost 22million cases have been reported in more than 188 countries. The United Kingdom remains one of the worst affected in terms of confirmed cases.
To-date 89 countries have imposed lockdowns to varying degrees in all or some regions of their boundaries. The first week of April saw 3.9billion people under a government-enforced lockdown, amounting to over half of the world’s population.
Devolution in the UK means citizens here have experienced different responses to the pandemic. Whilst Scotland sought to enforce strict measures, England took a lax approach in the initial stages.
The financial impacts of COVID-19 were quickly seen through a massive drop in GDP as well as a number of household names filing for administration.
Many people sought to receive compensation for cancelled flights and concerts etc. Solicitors considered whether this might spark the inclusion of ‘MAC’ clauses in the contracts they would negotiate in the future. A contentious issue has seen several airlines yet to pay customers back – will there be potential for lawsuits there?
There are lots of areas to consider regarding the impacts of COVID-19:
Firstly, the efficacy of the government’s response and the practicalities of devolution. What are the limits of the government’s powers under national emergencies such as these?
Candidates should also consider the industry-specific effects of COVID-19. Which industries have enjoyed success and which have struggled to survive through lockdowns? What has the government done to help those struggling? How successful is Project Birch? Read some of the effects of COVID-19 on different industries here:
Unemployment figures should also be looked at. From which industry are we seeing the most lay-offs? What are the longer-term impacts of this?
Lastly, the NHS Track and Trace programme poses legal problems through potential GDPR breaches. What is your opinion on this?
The Solicitors Regulation Authority will introduce a common assessment that all prospective solicitors will take before qualifying in autumn 2021.
Their belief is that it will allow for everyone to meet the same high standards in a consistent way.
In order to pass the SQE, you are required to pass stages one and two, which comprise of legal knowledge and practical legal skills respectively.
You will also need to have obtained a degree or equivalent qualification in any subject, as well as pass the character and suitability requirements; and have two years qualifying work experience. This, in effect, may allow paralegals and apprentices to also qualify.
Law firms are immensely interested in the SQE, the benefits of it in comparison with the traditional LPC followed by two-year training contract route to qualification and the difference it will make to graduate recruitment within the firm.
A well-researched answer is key here. You may be asked if you believe the benefits outweigh any risks in changing the qualification route.
Moreover, you may be asked to consider how the firm should amend their graduate recruitment to make way for those qualifying via this route post-2021.
When the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016, there were many promises made about how this would be a positive move for the UK. With slogans such as ‘£350 million a year for the NHS’ and the opportunity to ‘take back our borders’, it seemed as if the change would ultimately be for the better. However, after more than one extension of the date, the UK and the rest of Europe are increasingly uncertain as to what post-Brexit Britain will look like.
This unprecedented level of uncertainty remains now even in late 2020, following our exit on the 31st January. Many sectors are still unsure as to how they will be affected. It is clear though that Brexit has had a negative impact on foreign investment. Examples include:
The key here is to give a well-researched viewpoint whilst being wary of becoming too political with regards to the referendum result.
Realistically, there are no right or wrong answers and the best preparation would either be to watch the news on a daily basis or read a reputable newspaper, to keep updated on the latest progress.
Questions could also focus on how Brexit may impact the legal sector specifically as well as the impact of economic uncertainty over the last few years. Candidates, in this case, may want to either look broadly at the issue of unravelling EU law or look more specifically to the respective firm’s specialism. Remember though even the experts are unsure!
If you would like further insight into tackling Brexit at an interview, take a look at our How to Discuss Brexit at a Training Contract Interview blog, or our Impact of Brexit on Law Firms page.
The impact of new legal technology is something which law firms are particularly aware of. Many firms wish to pioneer it as an important part of their future development, however they also want to ensure that technology and in particular, artificial intelligence, does not take over from human participation in legal problems.
Artificial intelligence mimics certain operations of the human mind and is the term used when machines are able to complete tasks that require human intelligence.
AI could be used to review documents and legal research, help perform due diligence, contract review and management, predict legal outcomes and optimise recruitment.
According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036. Now is the time for all law firms to commit to becoming AI-ready.
Candidates should know the types of jobs that artificial intelligence may be helpful for in future development and whether the firm should embrace these changes.
It is important for you to have a spectrum of opinion in this case – how artificial intelligence an augment what humans do and free them up for higher level tasks.
Also, how humans will be required in the legal field to relate to clients and their personal or business matters.
You may also benefit from having an opinion on what firms can do to embrace a growth mindset in terms of AI and innovate to be ready for this massive step-change.
Over the past decade or so, courts have begun to favour many different approaches as alternatives to the traditional model of litigation. This tends to be costly – both financially and for a company’s reputation. Much easier is to come to a settlement through mediation and/or arbitration. This has reached an extent where many parties, for example, will now be penalised when it comes to the settlement if they have not tried to mediate beforehand, as indicated by Francis J in Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates & Gard. It is suggested that in the not too distant future, the majority of civil and family cases will be potentially solved by mediation or, where applicable, arbitration. It may be interesting to consider whether COVID-19 and the advent of online trials might catalyse this movement.
Although there are other means of settlement with alternative dispute resolution, arbitration has emerged the most popular. Advantages include:
Candidates may be asked to give their opinion on how they believe cases are likely to be approached in the future and give their opinion on the efficacy of alternative dispute resolution, as opposed to going to court.
Those going into firms which place an emphasis on mediation may be asked what they know about it and whether or not they have any experience in the field.
Candidates can prepare for questions of this nature by reading over the relevant information on the Civil Mediation Council or even applying to observe an experienced mediator.
Whilst criminal law is far more litigation based, candidates may be asked how they feel court proceedings can be improved and whether there is an alternative to litigation where minor offences are concerned.
Furthermore, candidates should have an idea of the global centres for arbitration and their specialisms. London for example has a wealth of history dealing with marine disputes whereas Geneva, using Swiss law, may be a better location of commodities contracts. Candidates should also have an awareness of the growing popularity of centres in Singapore and Dubai. If the firm to which they are applying has offices in these locations, this becomes an even bigger factor for consideration.
Climate change is a massive global and legal crisis. Litigation with climate as its focus is going to begin affecting both public and private areas of law. Companies are going to become more liable for ecological based damages and crimes.
Moreover, law firms have to become more conscious of their eco-impact. For example, adaptations must be made to move towards paperless office environments, recycling of office supplies and a change in everyday practices to make them more sustainable for the future.
Candidates should be able to suggest examples of how offices can become more sustainable in their practices and demonstrate knowledge of any existing practices the firm may be undertaking to create a sustainable and eco-friendly office. As well as being able to highlight why this is so important in this day and age.
Moreover, you may also be asked to explain what sectors of the law or practice areas of the specific interviewing firm which will be most affected by the global climate crisis.
Something very up to date in this area is the government’s decision to include the climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion as an extremist ideology – you may be asked to provide your opinion on this decision.
COVID-19 may have delivered the final blow to the long-struggling high-street. The growth of online shopping has, over the years, greatly eroded the number of visitors to high-streets and shopping centres. However, the high-street has never had to face a problem anything like the national and regional lockdowns of 2020.
In July, grim predictions were made about the number of jobs which would be lost as a result of store closures. Just a few of the retailers who have struggled include; Oak Furnitureland, Bensons for Beds, Peter Jones, TM Lewin, H&M, Le Pain Quotidien, Monsoon, Victoria’s Secret and Johnsons Shoes.
Although for some, loss of revenue has been tempered by online sales, many are still on the cusp of going into administration. It may be worth considering retailers who have managed to substantially increase their virtual offerings.
Find examples of retailers who have been forced to close stores. Consider where has been worst affected – towns or cities. In some cases, local shops have enjoyed greater custom as a result of people working from and staying at home.
It also may be important to consider tenancy contracts and the role CVAs play.
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